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Mandeville heart patient fine after surgery in US

Overseas-based Jamaicans to the rescue

BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND Sunday Observer staff reporter sutherlanda@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 10, 2014    

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester - Cherine Allen-Powell who had appealed to the public earlier this year to help her fund the close to $1 million cost to undertake open heart surgery, has been successful in getting treatment and is now recovering in the United States.

The medical condition of the 36-year-old was revealed in a story published in the Jamaica Observer last February, as the three-month window in which she was trying to raise at least half of the required funds in order for a date to be set for surgery was closing.

Cardiac Consultant at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) Dr Roger Irvine said then that it was recommended that surgery be done as soon as possible as her quality of life was impacted and she was at risk of heart failure.

However, a follow-up story in April stating that her fund-raising efforts were happening at a slow pace was also the catalyst for the necessary aid to end her 21-year struggle with the disease.

As a result of links forged by Jamaican-born family physician and associate professor Dr Carlton Clarke who now resides in Dallas, Texas, Allen-Powell was able to leave on July 19 to start her treatment at the Heart Hospital Baylor Plano, Texas.

Dr Clarke said that he was vacationing in the island in April when he read the story and contacted her with the promise of getting the help she needed when he returned home.

"I found it hard to imagine that a patient would be denied care because of inability to pay and allowed to die -- totally inconceivable in this day and age. There are charitable organisations willing to help if only asked," Dr Clarke told the Sunday Observer.

He said that the cost of her surgery, hospital stay and cardiac rehabilitation that she is currently engaged in is approximately US$250, 000 and is being covered by the Heart Hospital Baylor Plano.

"It (surgery) was a four-hour procedure. She was placed on the Heart Lung machine and her damaged Aortic and Mitral valves were replaced. Her surgery was successful, the valves are working beautifully," Dr Clarke said.

Allen-Powell is now recuperating at the home of Dr Clarke and his wife Phyllis who is a nurse and also a Jamaican.

However, he said that President of the West Indian Association there, Dr Dudley McFarquahar and his wife Paula were responsible for her airfare to Dallas and are also actively involved in her stay.

The McFarquahar's have reportedly made a monetary contribution to assist her husband and two children in Mandeville since she has been away.

"He is an angel from heaven," Allen-Powell told the Sunday Observer while reflecting on the efforts of Dr Clarke prior to her departure.

Since her surgery, Allen-Powell told this tabloid that with the treatment of staff at the hospital and all the other people who have come to her aid in Dallas, she felt comfortable.

She is also grateful to all the people who assisted her in accumulating roughly J$135,000 in her bank account and through other efforts.

That money enabled her to purchase medication, pay transportation cost for regular check-ups at the University Hospital of the West Indies, take care of the passport and visa process for her travel, and other expenses.

Dr Clarke, who attended medical school in Jamaica, said that the Baylor Heart Hospital and the cardiac team that assisted Allen-Powell would be willing to work with the cardiac programme at the University Hospital of the West Indies.

"They would bring a team down to Jamaica with supplies. I have asked Dr Roger Irvine to coordinate. This would be a boon for so many others needing help. I will keep the fire burning from this end," he said.

Dr Clarke said that Allen-Powell was the first patient from Jamaica that he has enabled to access free medical care in the United States but she will not be the last.

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